Policies And Procedures
Please read the information below, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
The Humane Society of St. Joseph County handles over 7,000 animals a year. In spite of this overwhelming number, we try to ensure that every animal leaving the shelter is healthy. Unfortunately, the history of many of our animals is unknown. In these situations, the animal may have been exposed to a disease and be incubating the disease. We ask you to take your adopted pet to your veterinarian within 72 hours for an initial health check. We will offer a refund or replacement for an animal diagnosed by a veterinarian to have an incurable disease within seven days of adoption. If the new pet owner elects to treat an ill pet, they will be responsible for any cost incurred. To protect all the animals involved, any dogs or cats currently owned or kept by the adopter must have current vaccinations (rabies and distemper) before placement of a new pet.
The shelter cannot guarantee the behavior or the temperament of any animal placed for adoption. We DO NOT GIVE REFUNDS FOR TEMPERAMENT PROBLEMS. Refunds are given only for medical problems with the animal adopted.
Landlords of rental properties or mobile home parks must approve of the adoption before placement. Temporary residences will be given careful consideration. All adults living at the residence are required to give their approval for adoption before placement. Applicants must be 18 years or older. We do not adopt for outside pets or for the purpose of hunting, guard/watch dogs, mousers, or barn cats.
For the protection of pets, people, and property we stress the importance of proper confinement. We require a fenced in yard or kennel facility for dogs over 45 pounds, pups that we anticipate will weigh more than 45 pounds, and potential problematic animals.
The Humane Society does reserve the right to refuse any adoption application. We do our best to make sure that the animals are entering an environment that is compatible with that specific animal. Many different factors are considered when the applications are being processed. A mandatory 24-hour waiting period allows us to review the application. This also allows the adopter time to consider the choice of prospective pet. Sometimes, circumstances beyond our control (example: property checks) require additional time in processing the application. The Humane Society reserves the right to investigate new homes and remove the animal if it is not receiving adequate care, if the spay/neuter surgery is not performed on time, or if facts have been misrepresented to the Humane Society.
As director of the Humane Society of St. Joseph County, I want to give the society’s opinion of the feral cat issues that we face in our county. Since many in the community have similar questions about the Humane Society’s stance towards feral cats, I think that the best way to address these issues is in a question and answer format.
What is a feral cat?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), feral cats are unsocial animals who are descendants of domestic cats
who have returned to the wild. A cat born and raised in the wild, or who has
been abandoned or lost and reverted to wild ways in order to survive is considered a free roaming or feral cat. While some feral cats tolerate a bit of human contact, most are too fearful and wild to be handled. Ferals often live in groups, called colonies, and take refuge wherever they can find food—rodents and other small animals and garbage. They will also try to seek out abandoned buildings, deserted cars, even dig holes in the ground to keep warm in the winter months and cool during the summer heat.
What are the problems posed by free roaming and feral cats?
Public health and the welfare of the cats are the most compelling reasons for our policy towards free roaming cats, whether they are owned or feral. Cat feces
contain certain parasites (Toxoplasmosis and Ascarids ) which can be spread
when deposited into children’s sand boxes, grassy areas and in yards and playgrounds. Neurological disease, such as blindness, can be devastating to humans affected. Cat Scratch Fever caused by Bartonellosis is another issue facing humans if scratched or bitten by the cats. Ringworm, although not fatal, is a serious dermatological, zoonotic disease.
Rabies is one of the most serious health threats to animals and humans. This zoonotic disease is caused by a virus carried through the saliva of the cat. If a feral or free roaming cat bites someone, there should be a responsible person or group to contact if the cat is in a maintained colony. A responsible person or group may then provide a vaccination record, identify the cat with the rabies vaccine, and then pay the medical bills for the victim. It is very important that cats are vaccinated for rabies because they often prey on, toy with, and even eat bats, which frequently carry the disease. St Joseph County has had 9 positive cases of
rabies in bats in 2009 and 3 already this year. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recorded two deaths in Indiana—one in 2006 and one in 2009 (in neighboring Marshall County)—and verified that these deaths were caused by bat rabies. In short, the health and welfare of humans and of animals, as well as Indiana law, strongly suggest that feral cats be vaccinated.
What are the dangers to feral cats themselves?
Feral cats have common predators: coyotes, fox, dogs, and humans are the most common. Worse than death, strychnine poisoning, gunshot wounds, arrows, burning the animal alive are just a few of the abhorrent things that people do to animals that they don’t like. The cats can be destructive when trying to find shelter, and they can use neighborhood property to defecate and urinate. Consequently, people will do what it takes to eliminate them as nuisance animals.
We here at the Humane Society feel that the cats deserve to live; however, we also feel that feral cats need to be out in the country in areas like farms and in other large spaces, and definitely out of urban neighborhoods in close living quarters with people. Freezing to death in the winter, not being medicated when injured, no treatment for broken bones, and no pain relief when in pain also are issues to which we give serious thought.
What does “Trap Neuter and Release” do for feral cats?
We give much credit to Michiana Feral Cat Coalition for spaying and neutering the feral or free roaming cats in our community. Two pairs of cats can produce over
3 million cats in as little as 10 years; therefore, the efforts of these community groups must be appreciated. We disagree, however, with where these animals are placed. The Humane Society of St. Joseph County prefers to release them with caretakers who will be responsible owners and who do not live in close proximity to large groups of people in urban areas. Pet owners and animal lovers must always respect the property and wishes of our neighbors who may not love animals in the same way. We need to appreciate living in a world with diverse opinions about animals. Wild life is included in this group of animals since in most cases they were here first. They have learned to adapt to our homes, fences and habits, and they also have a right to live amongst us.
What does the Humane Society do with feral cats?
We have nurtured many feral cat colonies by spaying, neutering, testing, vaccinating, ear tipping and micro-chipping these animals. These select few are then released to the people who brought them to us for this free service. By this effort, we try to prevent the huge amount of homeless cats. Since we cannot tame these animals--due to time constraints, space, personnel, and their fear of humans--we cannot keep them in our shelter. We place as many as we can. In the last few years, we have captured or had brought into the shelter only less than a dozen ear-tipped cats. On the other hand, we have in our quarantine today 10 litters of kittens and 287 total cats that will be spayed or neutered, tested, and put into our adoption facility to add to the 85 already awaiting homes. Our resources will go to those cats that can be re-homed. We do not release any cats that are positive for feline leukemia or feline immunological virus, and these are put down so that other cats do not contract these diseases.
Even though we have a new shelter and are adopting many more cats than in our
old shelter, we still have problems finding homes for the many animals in
our care. The disposable animal issue and the irresponsibility of society have brought about this dilemma. As shelter personnel, we are expected to solve this
problem; however, try as we might to spay and neuter everything that goes out of
our doors, education is still one major component to the solution to this problem.
Until the legislators, veterinarians, the public, the rescues, and the shelters all come together in the same mind-set, we are going to continue to struggle to solve this huge problem.
Dr. Carol Ecker, Director Humane Society of St. Joseph County